Skills and Education in Canada – Students find it challenging to translate their understanding of skill requirements into concrete choices about education, training and careers

When stepping into post-secondary education, students are at crossroads while they make important decisions and investments amid considerable uncertainty. While this may be the unavoidable norm, better career development and targeted labour market information (LMI) can support students in making informed career decisions and successful transitions by providing data and insights on educational and labour market pathways. That is why we sat with current and prospective post-secondary students to chat about their careers and life choices, and how LMI can better support them.

We partnered with Refresh Market Research to conduct a qualitative study of first-year college and university students (Box 1). We conducted in- depth online discussions with 35 young Canadians to learn more about how they decided to pursue post-secondary education (PSE) and how they chose their institutions and programs.

We sought to find out what types of LMI were or could be useful to students in making their decisions. The group discussed three types of LMI: skill requirements, wages and job outlooks. This LMI Insight Report focuses on skill requirements and how to best support students in making informed decisions about PSE and labour market pathways. As part of this series, LMI Insight Report no. 21 explored issues related to wages.

This study builds on the findings of the public opinion research that the Labour Market Information Council (LMIC) previously conducted on different groups of Canadians. These findings told us that the skills required for jobs are among the most sought-after types of LMI for all Canadians, including students.

Key findings

• Through a series of in-depth discussions with young Canadians at the crossroads between high school and post-secondary education, we found that most think they know which skills employers need.
• Students are mainly interested in learning about transferable skills and knowing which skills are most at risk of becoming obsolete in the future.
• However, the students find it challenging to translate their understanding of skill requirements into concrete choices about education, training and careers.

The Way Forward

In our discussions with students about how they made their education decisions and how
they envision the future, it was clear that skills information is an essential component of that process. Students understand skills as the ability to use knowledge to carry out certain
tasks effectively and efficiently. They are mainly interested in learning about transferable skills. They were also curious to learn about how skills will evolve or become obsolete in the future. In terms of LMI, their highest priority was to have information about skill requirements organized according to potential career pathways (i.e., within an industry or occupation).

Several gaps remain in the LMI system when it comes to providing students with such information. These include a better and deeper understanding of the relationships between jobs and skills and, ultimately, better information about training and education pathways available by skills in Canada. LMIC is collaborating with its partners to bridge these gaps.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @  In Conversation With Students: What About Skills?

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